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21st May 1943

WWII Timeline




Events On This Day

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) Mosquitoes again carried out extensive raids over Berlin during the night.

In Australasia. Japanese air force bombers again attempted to raid Exmouth Gulf.

It was announced that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of Japanese fleet, was killed in April in air combat. United States of America President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to Get Isoroku Yamamoto. Knox instructed Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of Roosevelt's wishes. Admiral Nimitz consulted Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander, South Pacific, then authorised a mission on 17 April 1943 to intercept Isoroku Yamamoto's flight en route and shoot it down. A squadron of Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft were assigned the task as only they possessed the range to intercept and engage. Select pilots from three units were informed that they were intercepting an "important high officer" with no specific name given.

On the morning of 18 April 1943, despite urgings by local commanders to cancel the trip for fear of ambush, Isoroku Yamamoto's two Mitsubishi G4M fast transport aircraft left Rabaul as scheduled for the 315 miles trip. Sixteen Lightnings intercepted the flight over Bougainville and a dogfight ensued between them and the six escorting Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes. First Lieutenant Rex T. Barber engaged the first of the two Japanese transports which turned out to be Isoroku Yamamoto's plane. He targeted the aircraft with gunfire until it began to spew smoke from its left engine. Barber turned away to attack the other transport as Isoroku Yamamoto's plane crashed into the jungle.

The crash site and body of Isoroku Yamamoto were found the next day in the jungle north of the then-coastal site of the former Australian patrol post of Buin by a Japanese search and rescue party, led by army engineer, Lieutenant Hamasuna. According to Hamasuna, Isoroku Yamamoto had been thrown clear of the plane's wreckage, his white-gloved hand grasping the hilt of his katana, still upright in his seat under a tree. Hamasuna said Isoroku Yamamoto was instantly recognisable, head dipped down as if deep in thought. A post-mortem of the body disclosed that Isoroku Yamamoto had received two 50 calibre bullet wounds, one to the back of his left shoulder and another to his left lower jaw that exited above his right eye. The Japanese navy doctor examining the body determined that the head wound killed Isoroku Yamamoto.

Eighth Air Force. 123 United States Army Air Force (USAAF) bombers of VIII Bomber Command hit Kriegsmarine U-boat yards. Main effort is directed at Wilhelmshaven while smaller number of planes strike at Emden. At Wilhelmshaven Luftwaffe fighters are reported firing rockets.

Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF). During 20-21 May 1943, Wellingtons hit Villacidro and Decimomannu airfields and targets on Sardinia. During day, B-25 Mitchell medium bombers and B-26 Marauder medium bombers bomb the same airfields. P-40 fighters attack gun positions and targets on Pantelleria, and B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers hit hangars, repair shops, dispersal points, and a gun battery at Castelvetrano.

Ninth Air Force. During 20-21 May 1943, The British Royal Air Force (RAF) Liberators, under IX Bomber Command, bomb Messina and Reggio di Calabria. During day, B-24 Liberator heavy bombers hit Villa San Giovanni and Reggio di Calabria; gunners claim 4 fighters destroyed. P-40 fighters fly sea patrol off Northeast Tunisian coast.

Fifth Air Force. United States Army Air Force (USAAF) B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers bomb airfields in Rabaul area while B-24 Liberator heavy bombers hit airfields at Gasmata. Nabire airfield is hit by B-24 Liberator heavy bombers while B-25 Mitchell medium bombers blast antiaircraft positions, supply dumps, and town area at Saumlakki.

Eleventh Air Force. Of 10 United States Army Air Force (USAAF) B-24 Liberator heavy bombers, 12 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers , and 24 P-38 Lightning fighters dispatched to Attu only 3 missions, totalling 6 P-38 Lightning fighters and 1 B-24 Liberator heavy bombers, are able to bomb and strafe troops and installations. 4 other missions, after vainly waiting for a break in the overcast over Attu, bomb Kiska submarine base through overcast.

Go To: 22nd May
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Sources

The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

2194 Days Of War.
ISBN-10: 086136614X

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